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Ntaganda heads for The Hague

March 22, 2013

A Congolese warlord who is facing a series of war crimes charges is on his way to The Hague to stand trial. Bosco Ntaganda had turned himself in to a US embassy earlier in the week.

Fugitive Congolese warlord Bosco Ntaganda attends rebel commander Sultani Makenga's wedding in Goma December 27, 2009. Ntaganda walked into the U.S. Embassy in Rwanda on March 18, 2013 and asked to be transferred to the International Criminal Court, where he faces war crimes charges racked up during years of rebellion. Picture taken December 27, 2009. REUTERS/Paul Harera (DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF CONGO - Tags: CIVIL UNREST CRIME LAW MILITARY POLITICS SOCIETY)
Image: Reuters

Officials from the US embassy in Kigali, the International Criminal Court (ICC) and the Rwandan government all confirmed on Friday that Bosco Ntaganda had left the city on a flight bound for the Netherlands.

"Bosco Ntaganda has just taken off from Kigali in custody of ICC officials," Rwandan Foreign Minister Louise Mushikiwabo said in a message posted on the micro-blogging website Twitter.

The ICC said in a statement that it would soon set a court date to confirm the identity of the accused. Shortly after Ntaganda walked into the embassy to turn himself in on Monday, US officials expressed the intention to work with Rwandan officials to ensure his quick transfer to The Hague, which has been seeking his arrest since 2006 on a series of war crimes charges.

Neither Rwanda nor the US were required to hand Ntaganda over to the ICC, as neither were signatories to the Rome Statute that established the international court. However, Nuland said the US did intend to ensure that he was transferred to The Hague.

Among the charges the ICC wants to put Ntaganda on trial for are conscripting child soldiers, murder, ethnic persecution and rape.

Ntaganda, who is popularly known as "The Terminator," has fought for a number of groups over the past two decades, including rebels, militias and the armies of both Rwanda and the Congo.

A United Nations report released last October named him as the leader controlling the M23 rebellion on the ground and said he took "direct military orders" from senior Rwandan army officers. Rwanda denies supporting the rebellion.

Prior to the rebellion, Ntaganga had been integrated into Congo's army as part of a peace deal agreed in 2009.

The latest conflict began last spring when the soldiers defected from the army, claiming that the government had failed to uphold its end of the peace agreement.

pfd/jlw (AFP, AP, Reuters)